Gunjur - The Gambia

 

The Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) www.mbg.org made an application for funding in May 2014 to assist a project for community development in Gunjur (The Gambia) through young people in Wiltshire and the Gambia exchanging business ideas. 

 

This case study will be updated regularly as the project moves forward.

 

MBG wished to use this award to develop a competition for groups of young people in Wiltshire and Gunjur to develop business proposals to create employment and promote prosperity in the community.  The winners will visit Gunjur to share their proposals in 2015.  The objectives of the project for the young people involved will be that the young people of Wiltshire and Gunjur will:

  • have engaged with each other in a meaningful and productive way
  • made a contribution to their own personal development and
  • to that of other young people and to the community of Gunjur
  • become  receptive to the idea of each other’s communities and through that
  • develop a greater awareness and understanding of the global context in which they live.

MBG indicated that they would ideally want this to be an exchange programme enabling young people from The Gambia to come to UK for the further exchanging and development of ideas. Having had the visas of seven young Gambians rejected in the summer of 2013 and having had correspondence with politicians including Mark Harper, former Minister for Immigration and the UK Borders Agency, it is quite clear that this can no longer happen.

 

Background

The Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) (based in Marlborough, Wiltshire) was formed in 1981 in response to the publication in 1980 of the Brandt Report, “North South – A Programme for Survival” which looked for the first time at the underlying reasons for increasing wealth in Europe and America (the North) and yet increasing poverty in the South (Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Latin America). The report spoke inter alia of “interdependence”, “the importance of new partnerships” and “not leaving international development to politicians”.

In 1981 a group of concerned citizens in Marlborough, Wiltshire set up MBG www.mbg.org to bring the issues of poverty and its causes to a wide public and to engage with politicians to ensure that they understood that some of their constituents were concerned about international development. To bring authority to MBG’s messages, a partnership between Marlborough and the Muslim community of Gunjur in The Gambia, West Africa was formed in 1982.

The relationship between Marlborough and Gunjur has been based on three pillars.

  1. The exchange programme of young people from Gunjur and Marlborough has been fundamental to everything MBG have done, albeit now under threat as a result of the UK Borders Agency total clamp down on issuing visas to young Gambians to come to UK. A major part of the exchange programme has been, since 1985, the sending of 14 groups of young people from St John’s Academy and Marlborough College to Gunjur to be involved in building projects alongside young people in Gunjur.
    Overall some 1600 people have lived and worked in the opposite community always living in each others’ homes and compounds, including five Mayors of Marlborough and the Mayor of Gunjur.
  2. A development programme in Gunjur and surrounding villages managed by our Gambian partner NGO TARUD (Trust Agency for Rural Development) http://www.tarud-gambia.org/ which includes health education, women’s literacy, early childhood education, water and sanitation, women’s livelihoods, a micro-credit scheme for business entrepreneurs and (through collaboration with the international NGO Disability Africa) and an inclusion programme for disabled children in Gunjur.
  3. A development education programme in Wiltshire focusing on bringing global education to children in primary and secondary schools so that they leave school with an understanding of the global context in which they are living and will work, and will thus become active global citizens. This programme, led by the Wiltshire Global Education Centre (the educational wing of MBG) also involves taking groups of teachers on study visits to Gunjur so that they can bring the learning that they acquire through living in that community back into their classrooms in UK .

 

The Current Problem

MBG have become increasingly aware over the past few years that while our development programme, in common with development in other parts of Africa, has rightly tended to focus on women, men have been ‘left behind’; there is now a pan African problem of unemployment amongst young men. In Gunjur, population 25,000, it is estimated that only 10% of young men are in employment five years after leaving school. There is some evidence of increasing crime and drug taking in this traditional Muslim community, which is causing considerable concern amongst the elders. The ambition of most young people in Gambia is to leave the country as soon as possible and there are stories of young men losing their lives either at sea or crossing the Sahara in their attempts to reach Europe.

The Opportunity

In the 32 years in which MBG has been engaged with Gunjur, there has been no access to electricity or piped water. All power has come from individual diesel generators or solar panels, only available to the wealthier members of the community, and water has come from open wells. During the past month, both piped water and electricity have arrived in Gunjur paid for by the Islamic Development Bank. This potentially opens up huge opportunities for young business entrepreneurs.

The Solution

On a recent visit to Gunjur from Marlborough, Nick Maurice, the Director of MBG was invited to chair a meeting of various agencies and grassroots interest groups operating in Gunjur. The outcome of that meeting was the setting up of a Task Force led by a local, exceptionally successful business entrepreneur: Its remit: “ to develop by the end of February 2014 a business strategy in consultation with the young unemployed which will outline the potential solutions to the problem of unemployment”. This MBG funded process is nearing completion. Early indications are that providing grants and loans to potential entrepreneurs on the production of business plans will be central to the strategy.

Feasibility of The Proposal

The Wiltshire Global Education Centre (WGEC) has access to and/ or works with 28 secondary schools in Wiltshire, many of which have links to schools in The Gambia, not least resulting from WGEC’s programme of taking teachers on study visits to Gunjur.

 

The Application Proposed that the process would be as follows: -

 

In UK

Interest in the competition will be generated through WGEC’s e-bulletin which goes monthly to all schools in Wiltshire and other media outlets with which MBG is very familiar Including BBC Radio, Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, Marlborough Newsonline.

Year 12 students will be invited in groups of five to express an interest in entering the competition. MBG anticipate that six schools will apply - if more, they may have to undertake a screening process.

Over a period of two weeks, half day workshops will take place in each of the schools for staff and those students who have expressed interest in entering the competition during which

  • the background to MBG’s involvement in The Gambia will be explained,

the Gunjur context and its place in The Gambia and in the world will be 

  • investigated
  • the question “what is development?” will be discussed and
  • the competition will be clearly defined.

The students will also be given

  • website addresses from which to undertake research about development, appropriate technology, Islam, the West African and Gambian context
  • key contacts among the Gambian community in the UK from whom they can gain support as they develop their business proposals. 


They will be given the competition deadline which will be approximately two months from the date of the final workshop.

At the judging which will be undertaken by a panel including WGEC, MBG , Arkleton Trustee and a member of the Gambian community in Bristol, they will be asked to give a half hour presentation of their proposal and at the end a winner will be chosen against a set of clearly defined and agreed criteria. 


That team will subsequently be provided with the tickets to travel to The Gambia for a period of two weeks where they will stay with families in Gunjur and all expenses will be covered. 


Those teams that are unsuccessful will clearly have learnt from the research and experience of working on the business proposal. It is likely that these schools will already have links to schools in The Gambia. MBG will explore opportunities for the unsuccessful teams to use their proposals by sharing them with students in their partner schools in The Gambia. If they do not have a partner school, WGEC will put them in touch with a potential partner. 


In The Gambia

Meanwhile the competition will be promoted widely through the Gunjur community via Janneh Koto FM, the local radio station, BANTABA meetings under a tree in the centre of the community, through leaflets and word of mouth. 


In groups of 5, young people under the age of 25 will be invited to submit entrepreneurial, innovative business proposals which they consider will make a difference to the community in terms of employment and the promotion of prosperity. 


They will be given access to business people in the community to give them support and advice as they develop their proposals.

Two months after the advertising of the competition each group will have submitted a written proposal and will be invited to give a presentation in front of TARUD Director, an Arkleton Trustee, a member of MBG/WGEC, a senior woman member of the community and a member of the Gunjur Community Link committee. 


Two groups will be selected as presenting the best proposals. The winner will then be given a grant / loan to start up the business. This will be funded separately from other sources. 


The runner up group will work with the winning group from Wiltshire.

Collaboration between the Groups from Wiltshire and Gunjur.

The winning group from Wiltshire will travel to The Gambia armed with their proposal. They will meet with the runner up group in Gunjur and the two proposals will be discussed in depth in the presence of local business leaders. From these discussions, which will take place over a period of two weeks, a combined business proposal will emerge which will be presented to the community of Gunjur at a traditional BANTABA meeting and funded – see budget.

This combined/negotiated proposal will then be taken forward by the Gunjur group. On their return to Wiltshire, the UK group will remain in close contact with the Gunjur group and through social media and other forms of communication will continue to support the development of the business. It is hoped that at least some members of the Wiltshire Group will return to The Gambia after one year at their own expense to observe the progress of the business.